John McLellan: BBC salary revelations throw up some anomalies

John McLellan wonders why the 'superb' Kirsty Wark is paid less than Vanessa Feltz. Picture: John Devlin
John McLellan wonders why the 'superb' Kirsty Wark is paid less than Vanessa Feltz. Picture: John Devlin
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If there is anyone in the BBC who will have been earning their hefty salary over the past week it will have been the luxuriously named Valerie Hughes-D’Aeth.

As the corporation’s head of internal communications, she will presumably have had the unenviable task of explaining to staff why so many obvious anomalies exist in its upper echelons.

The female presenters’ anger is understandable and justified

If her nickname isn’t Kissov or Painov it should be, because for her £310,000 a year she is also HR director and will therefore have responsibility for internal discipline, performance management and dispute resolution. That now includes 45 determined women, all of whom are key to the BBC’s operations, who have just discovered how much more the boys are earning.

• READ MORE: BBC’s top female stars set to revolt over gender pay gap

Thanks to the publication of every BBC salary above £150,000 we now know the extent of the pay anomalies at the top but it’s inevitable there will be hundreds more in such a big organisation. There always are, especially in media companies where judgements are often subjective, and last week’s furore will be no surprise to senior private sector executives who would face similar outcry if details of all their top earners were published.

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The female presenters’ anger is understandable and justified, but it illustrates the problem that publishing such information leads first to strife and then, inevitably, wage inflation. The next stage, however, is the rebalancing of the books which will mean cuts somewhere.

Director-general Tony Hall (£450,000) has promised swift action within the year, on Painov D’Aeth presumably, and the suggestion is that several male presenters soon have a conversation about how rebalancing will affect them. They in turn will point to their contracts and explain why it won’t. It also shows the problem for a taxpayer-funded organisation now forced to act like other public bodies, while still expected to compete in a commercial market place.

• READ MORE: List of BBC salaries of Scottish stars earning over £150k

Take Donalda MacKinnon, for example. BBC Scotland’s new director is paid £170,000 – a whopping salary by most people’s measure but less than other senior media executives running large organisations in Scotland and well behind perhaps her closest equivalent, STV chief executive Rob Woodward.

Although the roles are by no means identical, Woodward’s salary last year was £395,000 but after bonus and pension contribution his total remuneration was £807,000. Even that was a steep drop from 2015 when his total package was over £2 million.

But one anomaly balances the gender dispute; how do superb Scottish broadcasters Kirsty Wark and Jim Naughtie (both £150k-£199k), Laura Kuenssberg and Andrew Neil (both £200k-£249k), and Eddie Mair (£300k-£349k) get less than the £350k-£399k paid to Vanessa Feltz?

• John McLellan is director of the Scottish Newspaper Society and a City of Edinburgh Conservative councillor

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